Commencement 2003

As President Lee Bollinger stepped up to the podium in front of Alma Mater on May 21 to deliver his first Commencement address as Columbia University’s 19th president, he looked out at a colorful sea of umbrellas stretching from Low Plaza to the steps of Butler Library.

Despite the marked meteorological differences from last year’s ceremonies, the record number of graduates—10,430—and their approximately 30,000 guests displayed emotions from festive to feisty. Journalism grads made confetti of shredded newspapers and videotapes, SIPA grads waved flags from different countries, and business grads showed their humor about the current job market by holding up Will Work for Food signs.

In his address, Bollinger referred to consequential events in the world over the past four years, particularly September 11, 2001, as formative experiences for the graduates as they take their places in the world.

“You have attended the University at a remarkable and possibly even momentous period,” he said. “For nearly all of you, that period spans a time when the world seemed to be flourishing in nearly every way to one when the world is struggling to come to terms with threats and instabilities—economic, political, and social.”

After his address, Bollinger bestowed honorary degrees on writer and poet Maya Angelou, psychologist Julian Hochberg, literary critic Sir Frank Kermode, geneticist Mary-Claire King, U.S. District Court Judge Constance Baker Motley, jazz musician Cecil Taylor, and mathematician Andrew Wiles.

This year’s University Medal for Excellence winner, broadcast journalist Claire Shipman ’86CC ’94SIPA, spoke at the Alumni Federation’s Commencement Day Luncheon in the Low Rotunda following the ceremony. Ten alumni received medals for University service at the luncheon. This year’s recipients were Bradley W. Bloch ’83ENG ’84CC; Judith Crist ’45JRN; Ralph Goldstein ’76PRM; Constance Alexander Krueger ’53BC; Gary S. Rachelefsky ’63CC; Sylvia Rosenberg ’58SW; Jean-Yves Rostoker ’71BUS; Laraine S. Rothenberg ’71LAW; Lucille A. Roussin ’69GS ’85GSAS; Paul M. Thompson ’77GSAS; and Clyde Y. C. Wu ’56PS.

Photo: Eileen Barroso